The Table of the Word

“When we take up the sacred Scriptures and read them with the Church, we walk once more with God in the Garden” (St. Ambrose).  Who can resist an invitation like this—to share intimate communion with God given originally to Adam in Eden?  Every time we are at Mass, the Church welcomes us to the Table of the Word and to this great reality.  The Fathers of Vatican II told us that “…in the sacred books, the Father Who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the Word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life” (Dei Verbum, 12).  Wow.  The only question to be asked of us is:  Are we paying attention?

All of us know how easy it is for our minds to wander during the Scripture readings at Mass.  We are particularly susceptible to this if (1) they are unfamiliar to us (2) we don’t understand their meanings and (3) we don’t recognize them as being spoken by the Lord Himself.  St. Jerome put his finger on this last problem:  “When we approach the [Eucharistic] Mystery, if a crumb falls to the ground we are troubled.  Yet when we are listening to the Word of God, and God’s Word and Christ’s flesh and blood [in His Word] are being poured into our ears, yet we pay no heed, what great peril should we not feel?”

The new Scripture blog on the parish website, “Scripture Speaks,” will help all of us to prepare better to hear God’s Word during Mass.  “Hearing,” in Scriptural terms, means more than sounds entering ears.  When Jesus said to the crowds, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” He knew the people had heard the words He spoke.  For Jesus, “hearing” meant reception of and response to His Word.  It is the hearing we see in Mary, when she pondered in her heart what she saw and heard and yielded herself to it.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday (March 9) and every Wednesday thereafter, I will post a brief commentary on the lectionary readings for the following Sunday.  In particular, we will examine the relationship among the readings—not always easy to see right away but always worth the effort to look.  “Remember that one alone is the discourse of God which unfolds in all sacred Scripture and one alone is the word which resounds on the lips of all the holy writers” (St. Augustine).  We will be looking for that “one alone” unity in the readings.

In addition, we will examine ways that each of us might respond to God’s Word when we hear it at Mass.  As the Church tells us, the Scripture is a conversation, not God’s monologue.  It is meant to “enlighten [our] minds, strengthen [our] wills, and set men’s hearts on fire with the love of God” (Dei Verbum, 23).  There is no place for passivity at the Table of the Word.

Finally, you can send your bible questions to me, and I will do my best to answer them.  Together let us press ever deeper into the richness of God’s Word.  “For now, treat the Scriptures of God as the Face of God; melt in its presence” (St. Augustine).

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